Ethanol group passes on the ‘Green New Deal’

Source: By John Sicilno and Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The “Green New Deal” is “too extreme for where our membership is,” Brian Jennings, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Ethanol, told John, explaining that the focus of the group’s lobbying agenda will be on presenting ethanol as a less-radical alternative to the Green New Deal.

“We feel like members of Congress are looking for more reasonable approaches to reducing greenhouse gases and making sure there are economic benefits,” he said ahead of the April 2-3 lobbying “fly-in.”

He explained that “threading the needle” on meeting environmental goals without harming the economy is very important to rural America, amid growing economic uncertainty stemming from trade policies and other issues. Any climate policy would have to provide a firm “return on investment,” he added.

Jennings said the two-day lobbying spree, which will include nearly one hundred of his members descending on Capitol Hill, includes an educational campaign highlighting the gains of using ethanol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel mandate.

“We’re going to spend quite a bit of time educating Hill offices on the greenhouse gas benefits of ethanol since the [Renewable Fuel Standard] was adopted,” he said.

Economic tough times: American farmers have been going through a tough period of economic uncertainty, he explained, underscoring the effects of the ongoing trade war with China, which has hurt corn farmers and ethanol producers alike.

China had place retaliatory limits on imports of ethanol from the U.S. in response to President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods. The actions placed a damper on a growing export market for American fuel ethanol in Asia, especially as China plans to mandate the use of 10-percent ethanol fuel blends in the coming year. The action is seen as a potentially boon for corn farmers in the United States.

But Trump’s EPA has also not been helping:Jennings, joined by other groups and lawmakers, has been pressing the Environmental Protection Agency not to continue its program allowing dozens of oil refiners off the hook for meeting federal standards for blending ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply. Actions by the EPA in the past two years have cut back the amount of ethanol demand, adding to the economic uncertainty for rural America, Jennings explained.

Climate challenges for ethanol: It’s not necessarily the Green New Deal that poses an issue for the ethanol industry, but the growing adoption of policies called “low-carbon fuel standards” in the states that pose a more imminent challenge.

LCFS programs can pose an obstacle for corn ethanol by deeming it less environmentally beneficial and more carbon-emitting compared to fuels not produced using food grains.

However, California, which initially penalized corn ethanol under the state’s low-carbon fuel program, has actually warmed up to ethanol in recent years with new emissions modeling that benefits ethanol use. Ethanol is now the top fuel used to comply with the program in the Golden State.

EPA’s own emissions modeling for ethanol has also dramatically shifted in ethanol’s favor, Jennings says. He also notes that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been a champion of the Renewable Fuel Standard and recognizes the benefits of ethanol. The industry hopes her support will benefit it as the Green New Deal takes shape.